Friday, February 25, 2005

Being blessed

Ok, how many disabled people out there have been 'blessed' by believers?

Oh, I'm sorry.

But congrats on still being you. We need to be ourselves. Maybe one day they'll wake up to the realisation we are not necessarily living in deficit. Maybe we ARE all here for a reason, if that reason is only to bother Glen Hoddle. (Glen Hoddle is a UK football manager who fell from grace after claiming that disabled people's impairments weres a result of bad karma from past lives. Naturally, the disability world, no, in fact everyone who thought he was a rubbish football manager - opened an ocean of brown stuff upon his head. BTW, I hear his new club has a lively disabled members section...)

I have been blessed. Twice. The Good Guys Don't Judge. Except with blessing you, because you might be in need of a blessing.

The first time, I'd gone to visit a church to see an exhibition of a student's artwork in the foyer. She was a nice lady and I wanted to see her show others her work. Afterwards she invited me to join her at evening service. A couple of my other students were there too, so I though it would be cool to just go along and spend some time with them.

It started off nice and gently, all smiles, a few lively toons. There was clapping. Not as dull a church as the one I'd been to as a kid, nor as frightening as the 'free' one my parents sent me to for a while.

Then it all went pear-shaped. Yikes! My lady pointed me out to the Reverend. Had there been a conspiracy all along? He loomed over the bench where I was sitting. I tried not to shrink back in horror as he placed his big, sweaty paw upon my forehead. The noise went up to 11... People cheered... I wondered if the sweat from his palm would melt my foundation.
"Cure her so she may walk again!" he boomed, to the delight of the congregation. Prayers followed - although my condition is genetic - it runs through me like a stick of Blackpool rock - so I don't see myself as 'sick'. I have some Stuff to deal with, true, but then - everyone has Stuff to deal with, don't they?
I was too embarrassed to blurt this out at the time, but in dreams I see myself spin round, eyes flashing, a shriek errupting from my lips, "IT'S PART OF ME FOREVER! AND I'M NOT SORRY...!!!"....They all fade away. Cut to darkness.

After the service, people gathered round - I was a celebrity touched by the power. They were so happy! It was horrible. Powerless suddenly to back off, the centre of attention for a belief I didn't hold...

I do believe we have a soul, and my soul was wounded that I might be judged in need of 'being put right'. It's truly sad disabled people are regularly seen this way. So much for the social model. Few make the assumption that things might just be right as they are. In circumstances like this, you look back and think of all the witty things you might have said and the different ways you could of handled it. But all I can say after that was I wanted to get the hell out of there, and quickly. I was stunned it had ever happened - all what you'd commonly call Good People who meant me no harm. But there you go - that's diversity. Other people's stuff happens to you too. In ways you can't imagine.

For a while I was wary in case I was cured, or in case anyone came up to me and cured me again. I steered clear of religious people at work. I was grumpier, definitely, with people who suggested cures might come my way.

And then damn me if it didn't happen again! It's art exhibitions in churches that do it. Maybe I should just look on them as occupational hazards of my job.

I was semi ready this time, as the vicar steered himself my way, a beatific smile on his face. On this occasion, I was exhibiting some work and it was the private view.

"HELLO" he said, in capitals. "ARE YOU HERE TO SEE SOMEBODY'S WORK?"

"Yes", I replied, feeling defensive. "Mine."


I pointed to a series of work I'd done with a distinct disability activist theme. "These", I replied, in such a way I hoped convey pride, savvy, and intelligence.

"Oh", he said distantly. His voice dropped a few decibels. You may find that in this sort of situation your companion will slide the conversation onto something else, usually a personal question that destabilises you as capable-adult in some way.

"How did you get here tonight? Your parents?"

"No, I drove myself."

"Alone? You can drive?!..."

We went on in what I could only describe as parley, with me assuring him I was independent, drove and didn't live at home with my parents - fair enough, being 34 years of age. I thought I was holding my own. I lived with my partner, I told him. After 11 years, we were too serious to say 'boyfriend'. And this vicar was making me feel about 12 years old. Big mistake. I forgot the big guy was probably used to careful language. A little wave of shock danced accross his face.
"Partner? Ohhh! You mean you're a lesbian?!"
Dammit, I wished I was for a moment - I'd never have been happier to proclaim it.

Instead, I 'fessed up to Living In Sin with a Man. (And being disabled, making activist artwork, and attending private views, in my own car). I'm sure it isn't a lesser crime in the bible, but the vicar rallied admirably.

He blessed me. He laid his hand on my shoulder. Heavily. Was it shock or will to impose?

"No thank you", I said.

No thank you.

Besides, ever thought disabled people might be the ones who are here to teach You a lesson, huh, buddy?


Anonymous said...

Agent Fang,

"Cure her, so she'll walk again!"

I know the feeling.

I vaguely remember when I was 12 years old or around, a priest and a nun were visiting my parents about something. They found about me being deaf, so the priest said he'll help me out with my disability.

He placed his hand on my head and read from a prayer book, just praying to heal me. I sort of had a feeling they were trying to heal me of my deafness. I knew it wasn't to going to work but I humoured them anyway.

I wasn't put off by the experience at all, in fact I thought it was funny. I never hold much hope for myself that I'll be "cured" of my disability.

(aka Papa Smurf)

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